November 25, 2015

Google Allowed to Appeal Class Action Status of Authors Guild Case


The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will allow Google to appeal the class action status of the seven-year old Google Inc. v. Authors Guild case, the court announced in an order this morning.

Decertifying the case would force Author’s Guild members who dispute the digitization of their works to sue Google individually. Google has argued that many authors have benefited economically from its Google Books project, and whether a scan violated copyright or was protected under fair use doctrine should be determined on a case-by-case basis.

In May, U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin disagreed, ruling that class-action status “is, without question, more efficient and effective than requiring thousands of authors to sue individually. Requiring this case to be litigated on an individual basis would risk disparate results in nearly identical suits and exponentially increase the cost of litigation.”

Complicating this matter is the fact that Chin is now a member of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He has recused himself from this review, and all other proceedings in the case will likely cease until the Second Circuit makes its decision.

“Since the long-running Google Books case was destined to end up before it eventually, the Second Circuit likely decided to hear the class certification appeal in order to telegraph its ultimate intentions,” Jeff John Roberts wrote in an analysis of the decision for “Its ruling will thus either end the case or provide Chin with a possible playbook about how to handle it going forward.”

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Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Associate Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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